There are at least 58 ISIS defectors who have publicly spoken out why they abandoned the group.
Although their experiences and reasons for leaving ISIS are various, many of them left because they were asked to kill other Muslim rebels instead of toppling the Assad regime.
ISIS has distinguished itself from other Syrian rebel groups since it first emerged around 2013, especially in expanding its territory and establishing its “caliphate” rather than toppling Assad.
According to defectors’ report, quarrels with other rebels and the leadership’s obsession with “spies” and “traitors were their priority most of the time. This was not the reason defectors had come to Syria and Iraq to fight for.
Another particularly strong reason was the group’s brutality. Many complained about killing of innocent civilians as well as the random killing of hostages, the maltreatment of villagers and execution of fighters by their own commanders.
One of the defectors was told to reassure hostages that their lives were not in danger. However he always knew hostages would be killed without letting them know. The defector said he was asked to say to hostages, “no problem, only video, we don’t kill you, we want your government to stop attacking Syria. We don’t have any problem with you; you are only our visitors.”
“Always I say to them ‘don’t worry, nothing dangerous for you. But at the end I knew they were dead men,” he said.
Many defectors were willing to tolerate the hardships of war, however they found it impossible to accept unfairness, inequality and racism.
One of the defectors from India was forced to clean toilets because of his skin colour. “This is not a holy war,” he said.
The director of the center and professor of security studies at King’s College, Peter Neumann said that more people are becoming more confident in speaking out against the caliphate as ISIS, “shininess is wearing off, and it’s starting to look less impressive.”